Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Eva H.D., Rotten Perfect Mouth

Still Life With Canadiana

The wind is going a hundred
miles an hour, mewling
in the chimney like a vodkathin drunk.

Pale broadloom, an automated
snowman. Three girls grow in choir
robes on the mantel: from left to right
their hair and faces lengthen.
The microwave is humming,
and the lights on the tree.

Pitch-perfect, two sisters on
matching florals grow limber
with Kahlua. Above the wind,
and below it, they scale the melody’s
frame, and descend.

Another sister pads in, towelling
dry her long, blonde hair, braiding
in a harmony.

In the hall, their mother and aunt
pause a discussion on cats.
On the sofa, their great-aunt closes
her eyes.

When the song is done, their father says
Dinner, and the  middle sister disappears
for a cigarette.

The frozen yard outside is so quiet,
she thinks it must have snowed
all over the world.

There is something quite remarkable in the poetry of Toronto poet Eva Haralambidis-Doherty, otherwise known as Eva H.D., through her first poetry collection Rotten Perfect Mouth (Toronto ON: Mansfield Press, 2015). Remarkable, and rare, in the fact that she hadn’t published a single word before the appearance of this collection (something she shares with Ottawa poet Jennifer Baker, who didn’t publish a word before the appearance of her recent first chapbook, as well as Calgary poet Nikki Sheppy). In her opening salvo, Rotten Perfect Mouth is a strong and compelling collection, and one from a poet I very much hope we hear more from. Her powerful and playful poems exist as a series of lyric narratives constructed out of personal observations, writing out stories of meteors and lies, various locations in and beyond Toronto, oceans, daydreams and conflicts, among other subjects both abstract and immediately concrete. There is a curious surrealism that permeates Eva H.D.’s collection, one that includes occasional, incredible quirks and connections that leap off the page. During her recent reading as part of the Ottawa Mansfield Press launch I could hear elements of the late American writer Richard Brautigan’s poetry, and his ability to blend opposing thoughts into unexpected images. There is something lovely and lyric and unusual in her poetry worth paying attention to, a kind of staccato pulse that races through her lines as she writes “The snow is pounding down / like a herd of ballerinas, / and fills up the window / between MYSTERY and / ROMANCE / with its white weight.” (“Why Basements Are Safe”), “The sky never touches the ground but races it, forever and ever. / Amen.” (“Racing It”), or the opening of the poem “Liberty Bell,” that reads:

Your fern hands, those saturated fronts
pealing down my ribcage, you Liberty Bell.
Furling and unfurling, green as tides,

and they are cream, snapping like sails,
tapered tethered doves.
The wingbeats a delicate violence.
Each one a fluttering, fickle heart,
daubing the air.

My little hypotenuse. My champagne
cork. My crocus. My snowdrop. My
holy holy shit.

My friendless renard, all tipsy
with va et vient. You jibtop.

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